Since the September 14, 2017 invasion of the palace of the traditional ruler of Afaraukwu Ibeku in Umuahia North council area, Abia State, by the Nigerian Army operation Python Dance, the community has remained without a ruler.
Eze Israel Okwu Kanu, the traditional ruler of Afaraukwu community is also the father of the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
The army with the mandate to crush IPOB left in its trail tales of woe, anguish and death. The community counted its loss after the invasion and with it the disappearance of its traditional ruler, his wife Sally and his son, Kanu.
Efforts made by the community, according to the traditional Prime Minister, Chief Chimechefulam Odoemelam, in search of the ruler have proved abortive.
Based on this, he feels disappointed that human rights organisations, traditional rulers council in the south east, the state governments and representatives, have become silent over the whereabouts of the traditional ruler and members of his family.
“It’s unimaginable that civil society organisations, our representatives in the state and federal are silent that the Eze is nowhere to be seen.
The traditional rulers in the South-East and Abia State have not come out to ask the whereabouts of their colleague. If these groups are silent, what can I do? Like the traditional prime minister, the palace secretary and village head of Umuobasi, Isiama Afaraukwu, Chief Iheanacho Ariwodo, wants the traditional ruler released to them dead or alive.
“If he is alive let us know. If he is dead, release his corpse to us for proper burial. He is a traditional ruler, you cannot throw the corpse away or bury him just like that.”
Odoemelam, who confessed that the community had become helpless over the situation, said: “I am handicapped. As I am, I don’t have the resources to pursue the matter further.”
Chief Iheanacho Ariwodo, who is also a member of the Afaraukwu Eze’s cabinet in council, said it had not been easy for the community with the absence of the traditional ruler though the cabinet members have held the fort in running the affairs of the community.
“The invasion is not something most people will say they have not heard about.It happened on the 14th of September 2017. It happened like a whirlwind.
Honestly, if we say we are not taken by surprise we will be deceiving ourselves. And we never knew that the government which is supposed to be protecting us will go to that length in ravaging our community.
“Our Eze, his whereabouts since then honestly we do not know. As the palace secretary, you can see how close I am to him. But honestly speaking since that day we have neither heard nor seen our Eze.
As a community, it’s now almost seven or eight months. It’s not easy, the community is not finding it easy.
“But the Eze has his able lieutenants who are managing the affairs of the community in his absence, somebody like the Traditional prime minister, Chief Chimechefulam Odoemelam, my humble self and one or two other people, we are managing the affairs of the community.”
Ariwodo said the cabinet members had met severally after the disappearance of Eze Kanu to deliberate on the matter
. “Yes, we have been meeting. We’ve met, though we have not been meeting as it is supposed to be. We do meet on a monthly basis, on the third Saturday of every month we assemble at the palace and discuss the issues of the community but since that incident we only met four times.
“The health and whereabouts of the traditional ruler were the basis of our meeting. We have reached out to his fellow Ezes . We’ve gone to the state’s council of Ndieze. We have also gone to Umuahia North council of Ndieze, their chairman, is Eze Eddy Ibeawuchi, to ask what they have been doing for not seeing their fellow compatriot.
“And usually they told us that though they have not heard how far they have gone in demanding to know the whereabouts of Eze Sir I O Kanu.
For us, we did not just fold our hands, the cabinet members, we’ve written to the state governor, we are only pleading, we are only a community, we are pleading with the state governor to please let the authorities tell us if our Eze is still alive. But if he had died, they can release the corpse for proper burial.”
He explained that the cabinet wrote to the governor in December, three months after the invasion over the matter. On IPOB, the palace secretary said the group had nothing to do with the palace which he noted had been the custodian of the traditional paraphernalia decades before IPOB.
“It is true that Eze I O Kanu is the father of Nnamdi Kanu, who incidentally is the man in charge of IPOB, everybody knows that, but like I told you that palace has been in existence since Eze I. O Kanu was crowned decades back. The palace has nothing to do with IPOB.
“Our concern there is the affairs of the community. Whatever IPOB does has nothing to do with the affairs of the community. If you ask me as an Igbo man I can tell you that the IPOB has nothing to do with the palace or the Eze himself, they are two separate things along the line.”
According to Ariwodo, the absence of Eze Kanu affected the celebration of the New Yam Festival in Ibeku last year. He added:
“There are no two ways about it. The community is feeling the absence of the Eze and Afaraukwu, mostly, you know in Ibeku, when this incident happened it sort of coincided with the New Yam festival.
Ibeku celebrates its New Yam Festival every August of the year and this invasion happened in September and within this August, celebration continues till September and October.
“In fact, I will tell you the celebration was cut short. That will tell you the feeling of the community, the community is not in her good mood
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